4 January 2016
Lebanon's religiously inclusive Santa Claus
Christmas is a state holiday in Lebanon. Lebanese people celebrate Christmas on 25 December, except the Armenian Lebanese, who celebrate it on the Epiphany on January 6 – which is also an official holiday in Lebanon.
There hasn't been an official census in Lebanon since 1932 (due to political sensitivity regarding religious balance), but the CIA World Factbook estimates that 54% of people are Muslim, 40.5% Christian and 5.6% Druze.
To adapt for the largely Muslim population, "Merry Christmas" is often replaced by "Happy Holidays". Alternatively, "Xmas" is used, taking Christ out of "Christmas" altogether.
When I was in Beirut during Xmas 2003, I spotted Santa Claus walking down the street, ringing his bell and selling balloons. Or maybe he was just trying to find where he parked his reindeer.
I spotted him again later in the evening. He'd given up on his reindeer and decided to hitch a ride on the roof of a car. Classy.